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[ 10-05-2013 ]

Commenting on the publication of the House of Commons Transport Committee Report on the Government’s Aviation Strategy, Scottish Chambers of Commerce have welcomed the recommendation to get on with the construction of a third runway at Heathrow but are slightly disappointed that the Committee has stopped short of endorsing the recommendation of Scottish Chambers of Commerce that Air Passenger Duty (APD) should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.  Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:
“Scottish Chambers of Commerce welcome the publication of this important report by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee.  When we appeared before the Committee in January, we had two key objectives on behalf of the Scottish business community: to improve access between Scottish airports and the UK’s hub airport at Heathrow and to seek to make the Scottish aviation market more competitive by campaigning for the devolution and reduction of Air Passenger Duty.
“We are therefore pleased that the Committee has come a long way in responding positively towards these objectives.  Scotland requires connectivity with the hub airport at Heathrow in order to connect with key markets across the globe that cannot be serviced directly from Scotland but this can only be achieved if Heathrow is allowed to expand to meet demand and if services between Heathrow and Scotland are maintained and expanded.  We welcome the Committee’s common sense position that the UK Government should get on and allow Heathrow Airport to expand through the construction of a third runway.  This is long overdue and much needed and it is time the Government stopped trying to kick this decision into the long grass.  Their delay is costing our economy dearly.
“In terms of Air Passenger Duty, there is an overwhelming body of evidence, including the recent reports from York Aviation and PwC, which prove that the high cost of this tax is damaging business and that the ability of our airports to compete in terms of attracting new services in the international aviation market is being compromised.  Our preferred option would be to devolve this tax to the Scottish Parliament, as was recommended by the Calman Commission on Scottish Devolution back in 2009, and then to reduce or eliminate the tax altogether.
“Whilst the Transport Committee has not gone that far, we do believe that members have got the message about the negative effects of APD on regional airports and their recommendations as to an APD holiday for new services at regional airports and a comprehensive review of the impact of APD are extremely welcome.  Again this is long overdue, since the Treasury in responding to a consultation on APD back in December 2011 pledged to conduct a study to explore the feasibility and likely effects of devolution of APD to Scotland and Wales but this has still not taken place.
“Overall we believe that this is an important and well considered report from the Transport Select Committee and we urge the UK Government to respond positively to it as a priority.”